Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Hai Yao, PhD

Committee Member

Martine LaBerge, PhD

Committee Member

Michael J. Kern, PhD

Committee Member

Melinda Harman, PhD

Committee Member

Tong Ye, PhD


Clarifying multifactorial musculoskeletal disorder etiologies supports risk analysis and development of targeted prevention and treatment modalities. Deep learning enables comprehensive risk factor identification through systematic analysis of disease datasets but does not provide sufficient context for mechanistic understanding, limiting clinical applicability for etiological investigations. Conversely, multiscale biomechanical modeling can evaluate mechanistic etiology within the relevant biomechanical and physiological context. We propose a hybrid approach combining 3D explainable deep learning and multiscale biomechanical modeling; we applied this approach to investigate temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder etiology by systematically identifying risk factors and elucidating mechanistic relationships between risk factors and TMJ biomechanics and mechanobiology. Our 3D convolutional neural network recognized TMJ disorder patients through subject-specific morphological features in condylar, ramus, and chin. Driven by deep learning model outputs, biomechanical modeling revealed that small mandibular size and flat condylar shape were associated with increased TMJ disorder risk through increased joint force, decreased tissue nutrient availability and cell ATP production, and increased TMJ disc strain energy density. Combining explainable deep learning and multiscale biomechanical modeling addresses the “mechanism unknown” limitation undermining translational confidence in clinical application of deep learning and identified TMJ disorder morphological risk factors never identified with single factor study hypothesis drive approach.

Author ORCID Identifier


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